Francis Chan has two laughs, and both are infectious.
One is a chuckle that reveals his capricious nature and wit. The other is an uproarious guffaw, reserved for moments when he finds something unusually funny, comically embarrassing, or just plain odd. The 41-year-old Hong Kong native has a number of parallel ministries.
The first, Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California, Chan started in 1993. The prestigious ex-urban city north of Los Angeles and just east of Ventura Beach attracts an upper middle class of Starbucks regulars. Today Cornerstone runs four services on Sundays, and Chan's preaching has attracted about 4,000 regular attendees who come to multiple campuses in the L.A. area. Its main church campus matches the Spanish mission style of the surrounding homes. Inside are few accoutrements—a small stage with a baptismal font, no banners or stained-glass windows, and no pulpit.
Chan's second ministry is less visible but more audible: weekly Simi Valley sermons that attract a worldwide audience of tens of thousands. His sermons consistently rank in the top 20 Christian podcasts on iTunes, in a group that includes Mark Driscoll and John Piper. In 2005, he spoke at his first Passion Conference, and since then has spoken at conferences almost every week (30 so far in 2009).
Chan's speaking style may be informal and punctuated with humor, but he constantly presses his listeners to be completely devoted to Christ. In an Easter 2008 message, Chan told a story about a young woman who was dating a man who said he was waiting to see how their relationship panned out. Chan told his listeners they should not act like that toward God. If you are here on Easter, he said, because you think this "God thing" might ...